Home >> British Encyclopedia >> Pediculvs to Ples 12 >> Pirenicopteros

Pirenicopteros

birds, borders and till

PIRENICOPTEROS, the flamingo, in natural history, a genus of birds of the order Grallx. Generic character : bill naked, toothed, bending in the middle, as if broken ; nostrils covered above with a thin plate, and linear ; tongue car tilaginous and pointed ; neck, legs, and thighs exceedingly long ; feet webbed, back-toe very small. The P. rubra, or common flamingo, the only species notic ed by Latham, is nearly of the size of a goose, and upwards of four feet long. When mature in plumage, these birds are all over of the most deep and beau tiful scarlet ; but this maturity they never acquire till their third year. They are found in America, as far north as the southern borders of the United States ; France, Spain, and Italy, in Sy ria and in Persia, but more frequently than any where else, on the coast of Africa downwards to the Cape. They build their nest of mud, in the shape of a hillock, and in a cavity on the top of it the female deposits two white eggs, on which she sits, having her legs dependent one on each side of the hil lock. The young ones run with great

swiftness, but are unable to fly till they have attained nearly their complete growth. They subsist chiefly on small fishes, ova; and water insects, and fre quent, during the day, the borders of rivers and lakes, withdrawing at night to the high grounds, and lodging amidst the long grass. They are extremely shy, and are stated, almost always, unless in the breeding season, to keep together in flocks, having a centinel, ever vigilant at his post, by whom the slightest ap proaching danger is announced, by inti mations which produce immediate flight. Their flesh is thought by some not in ferior to that of the partridge, but their tongue was one of the most valued dainties of Roman epicurism. They have been sometimes reared tame, but are with difficulty preserved, and their sus ceptibility of cold is exquisite.